Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: 'Number of HIV Sufferers in Nigeria Rising '

Experts at the just-concluded American Conference on the Treatment of HIV held in Denver, Colorado State yesterday hinted that the population of the people living with HIV in Nigeria is on the increase.

They also reaffirmed that Nigeria carries the second heaviest burden of HIV in the entire African continent.

Although the health experts noted that the federal government had been able to ensure that more of the Nigerian citizens were placed on life saving medication despite challenges in scaling up access, institutional reforms and political commitment to tackle the deadly disease, they charged the government to put a control to the increasing numbers of HIV infected people in the country.

Speaking during a Session enitled, "Sexual and Reproductive Health Care for HIV Infected Women," Dr Margaret A. Lampe of the US Centre for Disease Control & Prevention, noted that the number of people living with HIV in Nigeria had increased by almost half a million people in three years, stressing that AIDS-related mortality had also slightly increased in the same time period to about 217,148.

Jean R. Anderson of the John Hopkins Medical Insititute in Maryland bemoaned the increase in mother to child transmission of HIV in Nigeria, urging the Federal Ministry of Health to continue to organise seminars where infected mothers would have adequate knowledge on how to prevent possible transmissions of the disease.

Dr Anderson added that Mother-to-child transmission and transfusion of infected blood were estimated as common routes of infection, adding that each of these two were believed to account for almost 10% of infections in Nigeria.

"In the country, women below the age of 49 years have the highest HIV prevalence rates and mother -to- child transmission now accounts for 10% of new infections. The North central zone has the highest prevalence rates per zone while urban areas had more HIV prevalence than rural."

He said key drivers of the HIV epidemic in Nigeria include multiple sexual partnerships, intense transactional and inter-generational sex and inefficient services for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), among others.

d inadequate access to and poor quality of healthcare services. Entrenched gender inequalities and inequities, chronic and debilitating poverty, and stubborn persistence of HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination also significantly contribute to the continuing spread of the infection" she concluded.

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